Lux Apocrypha: A Quiet Proposal
Claudia Luftstadt slipped into the bar behind a drunken, rowdy, bar-hopping group of younger minifigs. The movement was precise and quiet, like all things she did, and even a person watching for her specifically might still have missed the quick entrance. While there were several patrons casually watching the door for the arrival of their own parties, there was only one person who would be watching for her. The contact she had come to meet, the self-styled leader of a small, local underground resistance, would be careful and observant but even he didn’t yet know what she looked like.
She stepped silently into the slight shadow cast by one of the twin pillars flanking the doorway and took the barest of moments to scan the room and establish her position. She picked out the obvious weaponry first. The large barbarian seated at the dead center of the bar proper wore a greatsword strapped across his back. She guessed it was magical from the odd luster of the gemstone embedded in its hilt. No, not a barbarian then. A mercenary. She knew the wandering tribes in this area to be highly superstitious. She watched the way he held himself. He sat cocksure upon the barstool, head high and chest thrust out. Bravado. So an amateur then. But she also noticed the easy grace with which he moved and the mountain of glasses sat upon the bar behind him. Should she require an ally in this place, she knew he would respond quickly enough to a monetary offer to be useful. She also knew she would not have to empty her purse to secure his aid.
Across the room, seated at a dark table in the corner, a white robed LegitEye Knight openly sported a Beamsaber at her hip. Her eyes flicked to Claudia’s own as the spy’s gaze passed over, absorbing details at a hyperaware pace. The smallest of smirks began to tug at the corners of the farce-user’s mouth. Definitely not an ally, Claudia decided, and that Beamsaber, while certainly useful, would be more trouble than it was worth to obtain.
Three tables away from the Knight, toward the center of the room, a weary looking trader sat slumped over his drink. He wore a long dagger at his side. She could tell it had seen heavy use, its wear indicative of its function as a utility knife as well as a tool for self defense. The weapon did not, in any way, surpass the quality of her own weapons and the trader himself appeared dead exhausted, so she dismissed them and continued her inventory.
She knew that the best possible locations for concealed weaponry lie behind the bar, slightly to the left of her potential ally the mercenary, and at the wall booth nearest her, secured about the person of the hitman seated there. The hired killer wasn’t one of hers but she knew his face from an operation she had conducted several Rekons ago. She knew the man was a walking armory but she also sensed, from his alert posture, that he as on a job. This was a man who was dangerous while asleep, so she checked his position and resolved to have him followed for the duration of his stay. After all, learning his target could be valuable intel given his pricetag. Going for his weapons in a pinch would be tantamount to suicide and far more dangerous than trying for the Knight’s energy blade. Claudia was confident in her abilities but she felt no particular need to test them at the moment.
No, by far the best option for a secondary weapon lay behind the bar. She noticed the way the bartender hovered near that just left of center spot and she could see from the pale scars on his hands and arms that he had seen some action. The defiant set of his shoulders combined with his face on a roster of revolutionary suspects she had skimmed through an hour before at the governor’s palace told her he was probably a sympathizer. Which was probably why her contact felt comfortable meeting her here. And if he was, that weapon behind the bar there was likely a sawed-off shotgun. Low-tech, but super effective, a shotgun would cause the most chaos and create the best diversion for revolutionaries to escape the establishment should the need arise. Ranged weaponry was banned in this district; a local law and not an M-Thronian edict. She knew of three black market suppliers in this district alone who would say, if they were inclined to share, that the shotguns were their most popular item. It was a lot of sound and fury, and not at all her usual cup of tea, but it was worth knowing about.
Her sharpened sight cut through the dim atmosphere of the dingy drinking establishment and flitted quickly over the rest of the patrons. The rowdy kids, the sullen regulars, the working boys and girls, and the office workers off shift and blowing off steam all filtered through her awareness in the space of a heartbeat. She didn’t even need to fire up her psychic abilities. She watched the office workers most carefully. Finally she picked out the amber gleam of a tall ale-like concoction deliciously named “Pisswater Delight” sat boldly atop a corner table in the back, opposite the Knight’s table. No one ever ordered a Pisswater. It was a very pretty drink but it was the worst kind of rotgut this side of Warhale. It was also one of the prearranged signals for covert meetings like this one. She made out the shape of her contact sagged, relaxed, in his seat. Instantly, she went on high alert. Something was wrong.
Her contact wasn’t looking around for her because he was unconscious. To her deep and troubled surprise, she could just make out the shape of a hooded figure sitting at the table, further back in the booth. Claudia, with all her powers of perception, had quite missed this hooded figure seated in the darkness. She thought about aborting and bolting for the exit. As if it could sense her thoughts, the hooded figure very carefully and deliberately raised its hands and placed them flat on the table. Her curiosity (a spy’s greatest asset and her deepest flaw) piqued, she moved smoothly through the medium crowd to stand at the table’s edge. The hooded figure gestured for her to sit with him. At least she thought the figure might be male. She found herself suddenly unsure. The hands were big and battleworn but hairless and graceful. She took her seat, her disruptor within easy reach.
As she did so, her gaze came level with the interior of the hood and she caught her breath. The figure had no face! She could make out the rich, ebony skin but could not discern even the shape of facial features. So they were here, at last. “You are Lux,” she stated bluntly.
The hood bobbed slightly in the affirmative. “Yes, Frau Luftstadt, you have seen us coming.” The statement was odd. Not, “you have been expecting us” but rather, “you have seen us coming.” What was more: it was indeed a statement with none of the usual implied query. These Lux were better informed than she feared. Members of the T.E.O. with Future Sight had seen maddening glimpses of them for months. Several of her advisors were currently exploring a theory about a psychic ripple effect that was distorting the visions. But here they were at last, in the least expected place and at the least expected time, in the flesh. It was a mixed blessing, she thought, that they could put that theory to bed.
Out loud, she said, “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage.”
The hood bobbed again. “My name is Uriel and I am at your disposal. Would you like me to don a more personable appearance? I only show my true face in the interest of transparency.”
Claudia considered a moment. Something in the way that he said “true face” made her believe that he spoke the truth but not the entirety of it. Still, she had no doubt that any appearance he might don (and however he might go about donning it) would be an act of disguise and she had little use for that. For now, this was as close as she was going to get to usable data. “No, please, remain as you are. I am not uncomfortable.” With this, she gave an easy, practiced smile.
Uriel shrugged, a full and powerful movement. Claudia realized what the robes hid and decided she’d rather avoid a physical confrontation with this creature. By the way he spoke, however, she didn’t believe herself to be in any real danger here. In fact, Uriel’s presence was downright calming. She eyed her sleeping contact meaningfully and spoke again. “Is he…?”
“Oh, he will be quite all right. No unwelcome aftereffects. And he will wake when I am gone.” Uriel turned to glance at the snoozing revolutionary. The angle was right, the tilt of the head proper, but Claudia found it unnerving that she could not connect the movement to the usual telltale microexpressions normally found in a person’s facial features. She had lied, of course. He made her uneasy as hell.
“Good,” she noted, “I shall have need of him shortly. Now, then, how exactly are you at my disposal?” The question was a little abrupt but, then, the sudden appearance of the Lux had put her ever so slightly out of step.
Uriel seemed to take no notice and responded with equal forthrightness. “We are an old order, Fraulien. We have watched over and guided the BrikVerse for a very long time. Our goals are simple and should sound very familiar to you. We protect “The Greater Good,” as you call it. The exaltation of Ossum, the glorification of gratuity, and the continuing evolution and true appreciation of well-crafted violence…these are the kinds of things we fight for. The Fundaments of the BrikVerse. We stand against the anorakish and the self-important. We aid those that pursue the greatest Fundament of Minifigkind: Fun.”
Claudia Luftstadt, daughter of the Emperor of M-Throne and Commander of the Third Eye Organization, absorbed this speech in silence. When she responded, it was with great care. “Why reveal yourselves to us if you are so mighty and influential? You are aware that one of the greatest eras in our history was an era of peace?” Her tone became ever so slightly dangerous. “Do you come to show us the Way? Do you presume to teach the Emperor how to pursue The Greater Good?”
Uriel recoiled slightly, taken aback, his hands going palms up as if to forestall any further offense. “No, no, Fraulein, that is not our intention. Your good father has seen the need for specific violence as well as the fruits that arise in peace. Each has purpose in finding revelry for Minifigkind.” Here, Uriel paused and seemed to gaze down at the tabletop. “The truth is, Princess, that we are not as mighty and influential as we once were. We are a dying breed…not in philosophy but in physiology. We’re working to correct that but in the meantime, our power wanes. We come to M-Throne because we sense that your empire serves the same principles as we do and we want to help as it has been our eternal duty to perform.” The Lux turns to face her. “We come through you because you always knew we would and because you, Claudia Luftstadt, can explain our proposed alliance to the Emperor better than anyone. You, of all people, can best understand our clandestine nature and the importance of our mission.”
Claudia took a moment to digest this and looked around the room. Again, her hyperawareness filtered through the growing evening crowd in the bar. Many of them were her people and the ones that were not soon would be if the Greater Good was served properly. She understood. But she also didn’t take anything on faith. “I understand, Uriel. I will speak to my father on the matter. You have my word. Should he decide that your proposal is of interest to him, he will likely invite a representative of the Lux to an upcoming Dinner Party held for the various leaders and interested parties centralized in the Nehellenium Galaxy. I understand you won’t be appearing as yourselves, of course, but the Emperor and his advisors will know of your presence should you choose to attend.”
Uriel nodded. “Of course, we will, Princess. Thank you.” Claudia blinked and the hooded figure was simply…gone. One moment he was there, full and real, and the next left the back of the booth empty. Claudia blinked several more times. These Lux would have to be watched very carefully. She didn’t entirely trust that whole speech about being subordinate. Uriel still held himself with too much assurance. Almost an arrogance. She would warn her father of that as well.
For now, she had a rebellion to foment. The governor had one hell of a surprise waiting for him. She leaned across the table and slapped her contact gently across one cheek. He woke with a start. “Huh? Wha…?”
“Wake up,” Claudia stared hard at the rebel, “We have work to do.”